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Speech in Romania on Atoms for Peace in the 21st Century

Bucharest, Romania
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very pleased to be back in Romania and to address this distinguished institution.

The Romanian Diplomatic Institute enjoys an excellent reputation for the high quality of its research and analysis, and for the first-class training which it provides to diplomats.

I have the good fortune of being advised in my work at the IAEA by a very capable Romanian diplomat, Mr Cornel Feruta, who is well known to you all.

As you know, a key role of the IAEA is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons by verifying that all nuclear material and activities in a country are in peaceful purposes.

In recent years, we have most often been in the news because of our safeguards work in Iran. 

The Agency played an important part in helping to bring about an agreement last year between Iran and six major powers plus the EU, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. I will say more about that in a moment.

However, another key role of the IAEA is to make nuclear science and technology available to generate electricity, improve human and animal health, increase food production – and much more.

This is an extremely important part of our work, which I often summarise as Atoms for Peace and Development. And that is where I will begin my remarks to you today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA has been contributing effectively to development for nearly 60 years.

I was in New York last September when world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 goals cover areas including poverty and hunger, human health, clean water, affordable and clean energy, and climate change. 

We already work closely with our Member States in these areas, helping them to achieve their development goals through the use of relevant nuclear technology.

This technology is used to produce new varieties of foods such as rice and barley which can thrive in difficult conditions, to manage water supplies, and to monitor environmental pollution – and in many other areas.

We have an active programme to improve cancer control in countries which have limited, or no, capacity to offer radiotherapy to cancer patients.

The IAEA has invested nearly 300 million euros in cancer and radiotherapy projects throughout the world. Our Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy – PACT – helps countries to use limited resources efficiently and effectively.

An IAEA international expert team conducted what we call an imPACT review mission in Romania in 2012, at the request of your government, and made recommendations on ways of improving cancer services.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA’s 168 Member States benefit from access to our eight nuclear applications laboratories near Vienna. These are unique within the UN system.

They train scientists, support research in human health, food and other areas, and provide analytical services to national laboratories.

Around 120 scientists from Romania have spent time at the laboratories as fellows or scientific visitors. They work with other top international scientists in their fields and return home to share their expertise with their colleagues.

A comprehensive modernisation of the laboratories is now underway. We still do not have all the funds we need for this very important project and I am asking all IAEA Member States to contribute.

The Agency takes pride in being able to react quickly to emergencies. For example, during the outbreak of Ebola virus in a number of West African countries in 2014, we quickly made available special diagnostic kits that enabled the affected countries to carry out rapid detection and diagnosis in the field.

We are now doing the same for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean affected by the Zika virus.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I mentioned at the outset that the Agency is best known for its work in nuclear verification.

Agency inspectors are constantly on the road all over the world, visiting nuclear facilities and keeping track of nuclear material to ensure that it is not being diverted from peaceful uses.

Romania is one of more than 60 countries for which we are able to draw what we call the broader conclusion – in other words, the IAEA declares that all nuclear material in your country remains in peaceful activities.

Nuclear verification in Iran has been a major issue on the IAEA’s agenda for more than a decade.

We worked from 2003 onwards to try to resolve outstanding safeguards issues with Iran. For years, little or no progress was made and the Iran issue was a cause of serious international tension. But we started to see some movement in the autumn of 2013.

In July last year, I signed a Road-map with Iran for the clarification of possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme.

At the same time, Iran and the group of countries known as the P5+1 agreed on a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The UN Security Council asked the IAEA to undertake verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear-related commitments under this agreement, and our Board of Governors authorised us to do so.

As a result of the IAEA Road-map, I was able to present a final assessment of Iran’s past nuclear activities to the IAEA Board of Governors last December.

My report stated that Iran had conducted a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device before the end of 2003. However, these activities did not advance beyond feasibility and scientific studies, and the acquisition of certain relevant technical competences and capabilities.

My report paved the way for the IAEA Board to close its consideration of outstanding issues related to the Iranian nuclear programme. 

Our work entered a new phase when implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action began in January. Since then, we have been verifying and monitoring that Iran is implementing its nuclear-related commitments under the agreement.

Importantly, Iran is also implementing the Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. This is a powerful verification tool that gives the Agency greater access to information and to locations in Iran.

All of this represents historic progress. But this issue is not closed. The IAEA will be engaged in Iran for many years to come. All parties must remain committed to the process that is now underway.

Nevertheless, I believe the progress made on the Iran nuclear issue represents a real success for diplomacy.

It shows that even complex and challenging issues can be tackled effectively if all parties are committed to dialogue – not dialogue for its own sake, but dialogue aimed at achieving results.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Last September, I had the pleasure of attending an event in Vienna celebrating 60 years of nuclear science and technology in Romania.

A founding member of the IAEA in 1957, Romania is a valued partner in all areas of our activity, including nuclear power, nuclear safety and security.

Romania’s expertise encompasses the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from uranium extraction and fuel fabrication, to the operation of two nuclear power reactors at Cernavodă, and safe storage of radioactive waste.

Romania also shares its expertise with other countries through the IAEA technical cooperation programme, providing expert services in nuclear engineering and technology, as well as in nuclear safety.

Nuclear power has been the main focus of the Agency’s activities in your country.

But we have also worked together in areas such as using gamma radiation to protect priceless cultural artefacts, such as the icons in the Orthodox church at Izvoarele, in the Carpathian mountains.

Woodworm which had been destroying the sacred works of art were eradicated by radiation at the IRASM Radiation Processing Centre in Bucharest.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am especially grateful for Romania’s active support for the IAEA’s nuclear security programme, which helps countries to prevent nuclear and other radioactive material from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Last month, I represented the IAEA at the fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, which was also attended by President Iohannis.

The IAEA plays the leading role as the global platform for strengthening nuclear security.

We have trained thousands of police, border guards and other officials around the world in nuclear security. We have given countries more than 3,000 instruments for detecting nuclear and other radioactive material.

Romania contributes to the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund, which enables us to provide such support to countries around the world. I thank you for that.

An important legal instrument that will significantly strengthen nuclear security globally will enter into force on May 8th, almost 11 years after it was adopted.

This is the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

Its entry into force will help reduce the risk of a terrorist attack involving nuclear material, which could have catastrophic consequences. It will also increase international cooperation in locating and recovering stolen or smuggled nuclear material.

Romania ratified the Amendment in 2007, but many other countries have not yet done so. Universal implementation of the amended Convention is essential in order to ensure that nuclear material everywhere is properly protected against malicious acts by terrorists.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hope I have given you some insight into the remarkable work of the IAEA.

Let me conclude by saying that the Agency attaches great importance to its cooperation with Romania. We look forward to strengthening and deepening that cooperation in future.

Thank you.


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